Monday, July 1, 2019

Note to Amber: The Stuff of Nursing

When I started teaching nursing 15 years ago, I was still a pretty new nurse myself. What's more, in the middle of my first year as a nursing instructor, my infant son required emergency surgery, and I had to scramble to keep everything together. 

Somehow, despite my inexperience and stressful life circumstances, the first cohort of students I taught that year made it through, and they went on to become successful nurses. Some of them—wonder of wonders!—are still friendly with me and keep in touch. 

One of them is Amber. Recently I stumbled across a note I wrote Amber soon after she graduated and started her nursing career. With Amber's permission, I'm posting it here unedited. Maybe it'll be an encouragement to nursing students and new nursing faculty alike.

I threw you and your colleagues to the wolves, Amber, but still you all survived.

Fundamentals of nursing was a whole new world for both of us that year—for you as a student, for me as an instructor. When we got to clinicals at Elkhart General, we all learned some significant things the hard way!

Still, with God’s help, you persevered, only to be shell-shocked by med-surg the following spring, as taught by a very green instructor. The course content was challenging enough, but you had the additional challenge of trying to follow someone teaching it for the very first time. Space helmets, whoopee cushions, and rubber chickens helped some, but they couldn’t make up completely for all the chaos.

And, still, you survived.

Clearly, if God brought you through the wildness of that first year of nursing school, He really wants you to do this!

I’ll never forget, Amber, how you and your colleagues cared for my family that fall semester—how you gave up your time (and money!) to spend an evening with the kids so that Nancy and I could go out; how you tidied up the house and did the laundry that same night; how you worried and prayed and were patient with me when Nicholas required emergency heart surgery.

And that’s the real nursing stuff, the true nursing stuff. Sure, you’ve learned all that other stuff you need to be an RN—all the chemistry and pathophysiology and skills—no question! To me, however, what really makes you a nurse is what you demonstrated from the very beginning: A love for Jesus that spills over and splashes everybody around you.

Dorothy Day wrote, “When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them. God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us. And so we should see Christ in others, and nothing else, and love them. There can never be enough of it.” You were doing that before you were a nurse, and now you can do it as a nurse. May God richly bless you as you move forward with your profession, Amber, and may He continue to bless others through your vocation of love.